|A book by Dr. B.F. Ederer|
Ederer's choice of spelling, "Coulie," has not taken over. "Birch Coulee" has become the norm. The spelling issue stands in the way of Ederer's book being discovered by a large number of people today. Ederer could not have foreseen the Internet. Precise spelling is of course helpful when using search engines. "Birch Coulie" isn't likely to get high placement on search pages, when the preferred spelling has become "Coulee."
Ederer argued for his spelling in his book's preface. He quoted "the Honorable Chas. Flandreau," identified as a writer:
This fascinating fellow was born in Morton MN just as the new century dawned, on Jan. 20, 1900. His occupation, as given in his legislative bio, was: "dentist, arctic explorer, lecturer and author." Quite consistent with Ernest Hemingway.
Toward lure of the sun belt
We need a little reminder of Dr. B.F. Ederer's significance in Morris history, IMHO. He did leave Morris for warmer climes. Our local media reported in 1957 that he was a "former Morris dentist now living in California." "Birch Coulie" was coming out at that time, published by Exposition Press Inc. of New York.
Ederer had his first book published in 1940: "Hunting the White-Tailed Deer." This book was published by University of Minnesota Press. His second book, "Through Alaska's Back Door," was published in 1954 by Vantage Press of New York. "Birch Coulie" was book No. 3 (1957), and finally his fourth and final offering, "Bingo, Gallant Reindeer Dog," in 1977, published by Exposition Press. How could the "Bingo" book be anything but a total delight?
Ederer wrote his significant historical novel "Birch Coulie" well before the age of political correctness. Today we're in an age where Native American logos/mascots are being eradicated at schools, quite appropriately. "Doc" was an enlightened and compassionate man, sad for the losses on both sides of the conflict, and his first childhood friend was a Native American. Yet he doesn't always use the most delicate language. This may hinder the book in the contemporary environment. But you cannot find a better way to gain insights into the Dakota conflict, than to read "Doc" Ederer's "Birch Coulie."
The author had strong personal interest in his subject. He in fact was born at Birch Coulie, first seat of government in Renville County. His grandfather Francis Ederer homesteaded there. Francis brought his family from Wisconsin to Minnesota in a covered wagon shortly after the conflict. He "settled upon one of the knolls upon which the Sioux chiefs had sat upon their horses while they planned the attack on the Fort Ridgely wagon train," we read in the preface.
(Some of my detractors might say I often write "fiction" (LOL). Del Sarlette once feigned ignorance by saying "go out to de barn and get de tractor?")
Mid-19th Century: much bloodshed
The Dakota conflict was massive and tragic. It is upstaged in historical annals by the U.S. Civil War that engulfed the eastern states. How young was our nation? When you're referring to the western theater of the Civil War, you're referring to Tennessee! But here in Minnesota, the advancement of white civilization was quite underway. The schism of civilizations brought bloodshed.
Am I correct in saying the term "Sioux" has been phased out in favor of "Dakota?" Am I correct there is no grounds for ever using the term "squaw" in historical writings? Is it taboo today to refer to efforts to "civilize" the Indians? Should we even say "Indians?" "Redskins" is off the table.
Our language evolves as do all our cultural understandings. Like it or not, history is a messy story of the strong exploiting the weak. We cannot erase certain things because of their unpleasantness. I read this argument once in connection with historical preservation efforts at Fort Snelling. The fort is in fact iconic in Minnesota history regardless of insensitive things that were perpetrated.
I strongly recommend Ederer's "Birch Coulie" even if some cultural rough edges might be evidenced there. You get a taste of the suspense in "Birch Coulie" by reading a sample passage I'll share here. You'll see the word "roan" in the first sentence, a reference to a type of horse. "Doc" was young at a time when horse travel was still common, and the terms for such travel were many and various. Please read:
Online searches about Doc Ederer reveal rather spotty and limited information. In addition to the "Coulie" vs. "Coulee" issue, there is the question of how exactly to refer to the author, as he commonly went by "B.F. Ederer." You can also search with "Bernard Ederer" or "Bernard Francis Ederer."
He gained his post-high school education at Creighton University (Omaha NE) and Marquette University. His legislative bio reports Clara (Wendling) as his first wife and Antonette as his second. His obit in 1992 refers to Toni as his spouse. He passed away in January of 1992 at the age of 91 in California. Funeral services were on January 19, 1992, in Bonita CA with interment in San Diego.
I thank Melissa Yauk, Morris Public Library director, for assistance in research for this post. She retrieved the book "Birch Coulie" from the back room. She noted "someone thought enough of this book to have it re-bound." There is a library display where this book would fit right in. Now that she knows of Ederer's importance with Morris, maybe we'll see his books readily available there. I don't know if they have "Bingo, Gallant Reindeer Dog." But what an irresistible book to pick out for your child. Sounds like it'd make a good Walt Disney movie.
I treasure the encounter I had with the fascinating author at our Morris Legion Club. I haven't been able to pin down how many years "Doc" was in Morris. His too-brief obit appeared in the Morris newspaper. It would be great if a comprehensive biography could be posted sometime. I would not have been overjoyed visiting him in his dentist's role, unless maybe taking a swig of alcoholic beverage first. A root canal in the 1930s or '40s would be arduous, I would guess. But I'm sure Ederer's standards were the highest, just like how he crafted his books. I wish he had written more.
I tried posting an online photo of "Doc" with this blog post, but it wouldn't "stick." I felt quite aggravated. I went with the book cover for the "Bingo" book instead. You can find his photo by typing "B.F. Ederer" into search. It's on a Minnesota legislature web page.
Dr. B.F. Ederer, RIP. I hope you're with your childhood Sioux (or Dakota) friend in heaven. We appreciate your life-long support of our Post 29 of the Legion.